Wireless operators and infrastructure providers must navigate through a complex maze of regulatory entitlements and approvals in advance of construction.
This adds uncertainty to the infrastructure permitting process. To promote consistency and certainty in DAS and small-cell deployments, the HetNet Forum and its parent organization, the Wireless Infrastructure Association, actively advocate before federal, state and local governments, and serve as an educational forum for information about this wireless deployment tool.
Recent Proceedings and Announcements:
WIA Comments to FCC on Competition, Access Through MTEs
The FCC voted to approve a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Declaratory Ruling that asks questions about promoting facilities-based broadband deployment and competition in apartments, condominiums, office buildings, and other multiple tenant environments (MTEs). WIA filed comments explaining how member companies have significant experience deploying successful wireless networks in dense, complex MTE environments and how they continue to do so under the Commission’s existing regime, bringing necessary coverage and capacity to MTE inhabitants.
WIA member companies’ deployments promote competition and access. WIA recommended that the Commission maintain its current regulatory approach, which benefits MTE owners and tenants alike by fostering competition in the MTE environment while also encouraging infrastructure investment.
WIA Petitions FCC to clarify rules on Compound Expansions around Wireless Facilities
The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify its rules to facilitate broadband deployment by promoting collocations on existing wireless facilities. As part of its request, WIA has asked the FCC to rectify an unnecessary barrier to broadband deployment due to the divergent treatment of compound expansions around wireless facilities.
These petitions are based on the FCC’s explicit authority under Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012, which expressed Congress’ support for wireless collocation. FCC regulations apply to Section 6409(a) to both small cells and macro towers in order to efficiently deploy wireless broadband networks across the United States.
On behalf of its members and the wireless infrastructure industry, the Wireless Infrastructure Association provided formal comments to the FCC as it was crafting the amendment.
The FCC notice can be found here.
WIA has also been active in the following proceedings:
Released in October 2014, the FCC’s Acceleration of Broadband Deployment Report & Order: (1) updated and tailored how the FCC evaluates the impact of smaller communications deployments on the environment and historic properties, (2) adopted rules to clarify and implement statutory limitations on state and local government authority to review infrastructure siting applications under Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, (3) clarified provisions of Section 332(c)(7) of the Telecommunications Act, and (4) adopted an exemption from the environmental public notification process for “temporary towers” that are in place for short periods of time.
In December 2015, the FCC’s Order was unanimously affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Montgomery County, Maryland v. FCC.
Colorado Public Utilities Commission
In January 2016, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) adopted an order (adopted Jan. 6; rel. Jan. 11) to close declaratory proceeding 15D-0575T, which was opened to review the validity of certificates of public convenience and necessity (CPCNs) and letters of registration (LORs) issued for services that were deregulated by the Colorado General Assembly in the 2014 Telecom Legislation (§ 40-15-401). WIA commented that issues of competitive harm may result for providers lacking such certificates. The PUC states it will open a rulemaking to fully address issues parties faced regarding difficulty in accessing poles and rights of way without a CPCN or LOR. Parties in support of a temporary rule addressing competitive harms during the pendency of the rulemaking proceeding are encouraged to file a petition requesting same; parties are expected to collaborate with one another and staff to reach a consensus on such temporary rule before petitioning the PUC. The PUC also states it will continue individual adjudications for CPCNs and LORs until new rules are finalized.
Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
In October 2015, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission issued its adoption order and final rules in the pole attachment rulemaking proceeding (Docket No. U-140621), for which WIA and its members advocated for over two years. These rules took effect January 1, 2016.
Maine Public Utilities Commission
In September 2015, the Maine Public Utilities Commission ("PUC") sought comment on a Notice of Inquiry ("NOI") (Case No. 2015-00295) regarding an update to its rules governing pole attachments. The NOI stems from a request from the Office of Public Advocate ("OPA"), which noted that based on the passage of time and development of new types of broadband delivery services, the rules are due for a refresh. The PUC noted it would base further action, including a rulemaking, upon responses received to the NOI. WIA filed two rounds of comments encouraging the PUC to open a proceeding and modernize its pole attachment rules, including affirming that competitive service providers with wireless attachments can access poles and pole tops at reasonable rates.
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (“PUCO”)
In January 2015, the Ohio legislature accepted an order issued by the PUCO in July 2014 in its case regarding access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way. In accordance with WIA’s comments, the order provides established timelines for make-ready, harmonizes the reasons for attachment denial with those within the FCC’s 2011 Pole Attachment Order, protects pole-top attachments, and aligns attachment rates with those of the federal cable attachment rate.
Broadband Acceleration NPRM
The FCC released the tentative agenda for its October 17, 2014 open meeting. It includes an item on the Broadband Acceleration NPRM:
Concurrently, Chairman Tom Wheeler released a blog post, Meeting the Mobile Moment, which previews the order and notes that it the order is now on circulation with the other commissioners:
"High-speed mobile broadband requires high-speed broadband buildout. However, the regulatory burdens associated with deployments can be expensive and time-consuming. We have to fix that. For that reason, I circulated an item today that takes concrete steps to immediately and substantially ease the burdens associated with deploying wireless equipment. The draft order recognizes that a technological revolution with regard to infrastructure deployment has changed the landscape.New Distributed Antenna System (DAS) networks and other small-cell systems use components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and can be installed – unobtrusively – on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures. The draft order accounts for that change by crafting a far more efficient process for small deployments that do not trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation. The Order also implements federal statutory directives that are intended to make State and local review more efficient for wireless deployments and modifications that are highly unlikely to affect local communities. At the same time, it preserves our commitment to safeguarding the essential roles that State, local, and Tribal governments play in this process."
- PCIA and HetNet Forum file comments in E-Rate public notice
- PCIA and the HetNet Forum file comments on Accelerating Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Policies
- PCIA, HetNet Forum file in support of AT&T petition before the California Public Utilities Commission
- PCIA, HetNet Forum file comments on 3.5 GHz band NPRM
- PCIA, HetNet Forum file reply comments on RF exposure
WIA, HetNet Forum file reply comments on RF exposure
The Wireless Infrastructure Association and The HetNet Forum submitted reply comments in response to the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry examining the Commission’s rules related to radiofrequency ("RF") exposure. PCIA agrees with commenters that the Commission should adopt smart, targeted modifications to modernize the RF rules – such as fine-tuning the proposed Maximum Permissible Exposure ("MPE") exemption criteria, allowing sufficient time to modify appropriate new signage requirements, creating a mitigation safe harbor, and employing centralized training – that will facilitate broadband deployment while ensuring appropriate safeguards to protect the public. As the Commission moves forward, it should remain guided by scientific consensus, reject proposals that are not needed to protect the public and would hinder broadband deployment, and dedicate its efforts to creating a consumer-centric guide on RF and wireless infrastructure that foster understanding.
PCIA and HetNet Forum file comments ex parte communications regarding signal boosters operating in the 700 MHz public safety band
PCIA respectfully requests that the Commission subject signal boosters operating in the 700 MHz public safety narrowband spectrum to the requirements of Section 90.219 of the Commission’s rules that are directly applicable to signal boosters, rather than the requirements of Section 90.543. If the Commission nonetheless determines that signal boosters constitute "transmitters" subject to Section 90.543, it should exempt Class B and Class A signal boosters from its ACP requirements. Doing so will ensure signal boosters remain an asset to the operation of public safety services in the 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.
PCIA, The DAS Forum offer 'roadmap' on environmental and historic preservation reform
PCIA - The Wireless Infrastructure Association and The DAS Forum offered a “roadmap” to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for streamlining the commission’s environmental and historic preservation requirements to facilitate distributed antenna system (DAS) and small cell deployments. PCIA detailed several actions the FCC could take to streamline DAS and small cell deployment in the public rights-of-way. PCIA specifically urged that the FCC strongly consider the addition of a categorical exclusion for DAS and small cell solutions to Note 1 of Section 1.1306 of the Commission’s rules, while also discussing other viable solutions.
PCIA cites a report by Amos Loveday, Ph.D., that compares DAS and small cell solutions—technologies not contemplated when the Nationwide Programmatic Agreements were drafted—to the FCC’s current environmental and historic preservation framework. Dr. Loveday is a noted historian, researcher, and former Preservation Specialist for the FCC and State Historic Preservation Officer for the State of Ohio. His research is based on a review of preservation and FCC documents, as well as conversations with a variety of State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) and individuals from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP).
DAS and small cell solutions are deployment-ready technologies that are perfectly positioned to timely and efficiently meet the goals of ubiquitous, high-speed wireless broadband networks. Further, these technologies are highly adaptable and can be modified to service future spectrum allocations and communications standards with minimal impact on surrounding areas. Because, as the Loveday report demonstrates, DAS and small cell deployments have minimal impact on the environment, and are well received by the preservation community, they can play an important role in keeping pace with consumer demand for wireless.
- PCIA responds to court decision on FCC pole attachment order
- PCIA and The DAS Forum 3.5 GHz comments
- PCIA and The DAS Forum ex parte comments on 3.5 GHz small cell band plan
- PCIA filed comments on Development of The Nationwide Interoperable Public Safety Broadband Network
- PCIA and The DAS Forum file Ex Parte on Streamlining Wireless Deployments on Federal Lands
- PCIA Chairman takes part in White House broadband event
PCIA and The DAS Forum filed an ex parte letter in the Pole Attachments docket. (Docket WC No. 07-245). The letter highlights the regulatory landscape almost one year after issuance of the Pole Attachment Order. The letter cites improved interactions in FCC states including greater predictability regarding attachment terms and new efficiencies throughout the attachment process.
Wireless Facilities Deployment
Section 6049 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Tax of 2012 mandates that states and local government must approve an eligible facilities request for the modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station. The Act was signed into law on February 22, 2012. The section mandating streamlined modification and collocation approval ensures the timely deployment of wireless services.
The DAS Forum filed comments at the Federal Communications Commission in response to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s request for comment on the state of mobile wireless competition (WT Docket No. 11-186).
PCIA and The DAS Forum highlighted the robust competition in the wireless infrastructure industry. Competition in the wireless infrastructure industry is characterized by many deployment options, a vibrant macro site market and a growing and competitive DAS market. PCIA and The DAS Forum also described how today’s wireless infrastructure market enables competition among wireless service providers and thereby enhances investment and innovation throughout the entire wireless industry. Finally, we reiterated the argument raised in our comments and reply comments filed in response to the Commission’s Broadband Acceleration Notice of Inquiry that, despite the importance of wireless infrastructure, there remain barriers to wireless infrastructure deployment that are frustrating the development of the wireless industry as a whole.
DAS Forum Statement:
FCC Issues Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration on Pole Attachment Proceeding
We are pleased that the FCC has resolved this long and complex proceeding. This important ruling should expedite deployment of the vital infrastructure needed to provide consumers with wireless broadband services and provide support for emerging technologies and innovative network topologies. As the wireless infrastructure association, PCIA and its membership section The DAS Forum have led the effort for this regulatory fairness and certainty since the FCC began this proceeding in 2007.
The order removes significant barriers that DAS and other wireless providers have faced when deploying antennas on utility poles. Non-discriminatory access to pole tops, regulated rates, and timely access to utility poles are important to wireless providers and critical to DAS providers. DAS is an important wireless network strategy that provides crucial capacity, precise coverage, and spectral efficiency, thereby greatly enhancing the reliability and quality of the wireless network. Accordingly, the ultimate beneficiaries of today’s decision are the hundreds millions of wireless subscribers who depend on robust wireless services.
Essentially, the order:
- Set a maximum timeframe of 148 days for utilities to complete make ready work for pole attachments in the communications space, and 178 days for pole top attachments. It allows an extra 60 days for requests of between 300 and 3,000 poles.
- Confirm that wireless providers have a right to access pole tops.
- Clarify that a denial to a request to attach must explain the specific capacity, safety, reliability, or engineering concern.
- Confirm that wireless providers are entitled to the same rate as other telecommunications carriers. The telecommunications rate will be near the rate paid by cable companies.